Asked to handicap the upcoming political throwdown between GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and the Democrats' inevitable pick, Hillary Clinton, porn titan Larry Flynt delivers a wry one-liner in that inimitable, gravelly voice of his: "Hillary could beat Trump from jail."
Flynt, who'll turn 74 this fall, will be in Phoenix on Thursday, May 19, to christen his new Hustler Hollywood "erotic boutique" on Metro Parkway. He'll sign autographs and act as a judge of local feminine pulchritude in a so-called Hustler Honeysearch featuring scantily clad models vying for a $500 shopping spree and the chance to be featured in Hustler magazine.
Flynt's upcoming visit inspired New Times to get the First Amendment legend on the blower and grill him about his second-favorite subject: politics.
First and foremost: Why is Flynt so sure that the man he has called "our national embarrassment" and "Mussolini with a three-inch dick" will be bested by HRC? In a word: demographics.
"[Trump] still hasn't averaged over 50 percent of the vote," explains Flynt. "And you've got to get over 50 percent to get elected. He's got a bunch of white-haired, pasty-faced men voting for him. Nobody else is voting for him. It's a brown country, you know? He's not going to get the minority vote, and he's not going to get the women's vote, so who's going to vote for him? There are not enough white men in America to elect him."
Moreover, Flynt opines, "Most of these white men who support him are all redneck losers, anyway." And besides, he has met Trump in person, at a party hosted by the late JFK Jr. back in the day. Flynt says he "wasn't impressed" by the obnoxious real-estate tycoon, though he claims you could almost see "that massive ego radiating" from the man.
But given that Flynt was so underwhelmed by Trump's aura (as it were), is he at all surprised the Donald floated to the top of the Republican heap?
"No, I'm not, because he's using a very basic technique that's been used by fascists all over the world. People buy into it, people want a strongman, people want somebody that's going to solve their problems," says Flynt, who says he was watching a documentary about Mussolini not long ago and noticed that the two men "have the same mannerisms," and that Trump "whips up the crowds the same way Mussolini did — but you know what happened to Mussolini." For Flynt, the worlds of sex and politics are often one and the same, and his new, 5,000-square-foot Phoenix location will include among its offerings of sex toys, lingerie, books, and DVDs, the new Hustler Video parody The Donald , a XXX-style sendup of Trump's candidacy with adult-film regular Evan Stone in the title role. Trump's in fine company, as back in 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin earned her own Hustler Video parody, Who's Nailin' Paylin?, starring XXX star Lisa Ann.
Interestingly, Flynt once ran as a Republican for president, with his tongue-in-cheek "platform" being that he's "wealthy, white, and pornographic." Flynt, though, describes himself as an independent who usually votes Democratic. Asked why, he replies: "Look at history. Any advances that we've made, from the Industrial Revolution all the way up to where we are today, [are] because of progressive ideas, when a progressive party was in charge."
By contrast, conservative politics are all about "me instead of we," he argues, adding, "I don't want to sound like a socialist, but I just think the real obscenity is people that don't want to see other people do well. I look at the Republicans as being mean-spirited; at their core they're racist. Those are fighting words, but they happen to be true. You may know some that's not, but I don't."
What about Ohio governor John Kasich? On stage during the debates that punctuated the hot-and-heavy GOP primary season, Kasich often seemed the most reasonable Republican. But Flynt calls Kasich "a wolf in sheep's clothing ... a true conservative" who has "sold himself as a moderate, and that's kind of saved his ass a little bit." In the end, Flynt points out, "he didn't have much appeal outside of Ohio." Flynt's backing Hillary, but knowing the support of a pornographer is not always welcome, he says he only "endorsed" after he was pressed on the matter during an interview for Bloomberg.com. (On the other hand, Bloomberg.com reported in 2015 that Flynt's early nod to HRC "took little prompting.") Flynt has been of assistance to the Clintons in the past, including in 1998, during the height of then-President Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal. With Republicans gearing up for the impeachment and trial of the president, Flynt offered a $1 million reward for information on the sexcapades of Republican members of Congress.
One of the GOPers Flynt wound up exposing for an extramarital affair was Congressman Bob Livingston, who'd been chosen to replace Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House. Flynt's revelation of an illicit affair forced Livingston's resignation on the very day the House voted to impeach Clinton in 1998. The president later was acquitted in 1999 after a 21-day trial, and Flynt believes the timing of his revelations about Livingston and other Republicans was crucial to the outcome.
Says Flynt: "When I exposed the Speaker of the House, who [wanted to] impeach Clinton, before that day everybody was asking for Clinton's head on a platter, including the Senate ... I'm not saying he would have been convicted by the Senate if we hadn't done that, but the fact that we did it sure didn't hurt."
Some 18 years or so later, those ghosts from the 1990s are returning, with Trump raising the issue of Bill Clinton's infidelities with Lewinsky and other women as a means of criticizing Hillary. Flynt poo-poohs Trump's move, saying, "That's the only thing he's got to go after her with," and observing that a lot of people "know what it's like to have a cheating spouse," In fact, he thinks voters will be sympathetic to Hillary, because she chose to "save her marriage," rather than file for divorce.
As Trump's had three wives, he may have some explaining of his own to do, Flynt surmises. "If you've got three wives, there have been some lies told somewhere, you know that," he harrumphs.
Flynt runs his porn empire from Beverly Hills, California, under the business umbrella of Larry Flynt Publications, or LFP, Inc. He continues to publish the 42-year-old Hustler as a print publication, which he says still makes a profit, with a circulation of 120,000, according to a spokesman for LFP. The Phoenix Hustler Hollywood will be store number 20; there will be 30 by year's end, Flynt promises.
(Flynt opened a Hustler Hollywood in Tempe in 2007, but the store fizzled and eventually closed. An LFP spokesman told New Times that the store closed because "the location within Tempe wasn’t the right location." The store has been replaced by a preschool.)
These days, LFP derives its revenue mainly from retail; the Hustler Casino located in Gardena, California; and adult videos aired on television channels worldwide, Flynt says.
His fight to publish Hustler took Flynt to the U.S. Supreme Court more than once and made him a First Amendment icon. When conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell sued Flynt in 1983 over a parody of a Campari ad in Hustler, wherein Falwell muses about his "first time" (with his mother, in an outhouse), the case resulted five years later in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. In the 1988 decision, the justices declared parody and satire to be protected speech. That court case was at the heart of the 1996 biopic, The People vs. Larry Flynt, directed by Milos Forman and starring Woody Harrelson as Flynt.
Flynt famously took a bullet for the First Amendment in 1978, when a racist would-be assassin, enraged by an interracial sex scene depicted in Hustler, fired on Flynt and his lawyer outside the Georgia courthouse where Flynt was defending himself in one of the numerous obscenity charges he has faced in his career. Flynt was paralyzed from the waist down and confined for life to a gold-plated wheelchair.
With the near-ubiquity of porn on the Internet, one might be tempted to conclude that all of the great First Amendment battles have been won, at least when it comes to adult content. But Flynt contends that he is forever "putting out censorship fires" across the nation — albeit not always with legal filings. For instance, in April, when Utah's governor signed a bill into law that declared pornography to be a "public-health crisis," Flynt responded by promising to send every member of the Utah legislature a copy of the anniversary edition of Hustler.
"I'll tell you something about Utah that you probably don't know," Flynt whispers conspiratorially. "We sell more porn in Utah than in any other state. Anytime you're in a religiously repressed area, pornography is going to flourish much more than in any open state."
Actually, atheist, communist China has proven far more resistant to LFP's porn, owing to the country's strict censorship laws, Flynt says. His company does zero business in mainland China as a result.
As far as making money off porn when so much of it is free, Flynt believes consumers will pay for porn if the product is superior.
"The people who appreciate pornography — they want quality," Flynt says. "They don't want garbage, and we always try to produce quality. And you're going to see a lot of that stuff that's on the Internet dissipate. I think in the end, it's the quality that's going to survive."
Larry Flynt will attend the grand opening of the Hustler Hollywood at 10017 North Metro Parkway East (off the Black Canyon Freeway), Thursday, May 19, beginning at 6 p.m. He will sign the latest issue of Hustler magazine and judge a "Hustler Honey" beauty contest.